You’d think cooking for movie stars would be a glamorous gig. And sometimes it is, like when I get invited to a wrap party or as a plus one to a movie premiere. But most of the time my job is hard work. My name is Penelope Sutherland, and I’m Chef-Owner of Red Carpet Catering. I work behind the scenes on movie sets to keep the cast and crew fed during filming, which boils down to many more hours on my feet and dirty dishes than glamorous nights out on the town.
Don’t get me wrong, my job definitely has its perks. Every day brings new challenges and a sense of adventure. It’s hard to get bored in my particular line of work, because no two days are ever the same. We go where the film crew goes, wherever that might be.
Take today for example. Me and my assistant chefs packed up our mobile kitchen trucks and drove down to the beach before sunrise. We set up the catering tents, and got busy prepping lunch and dinner for over two hundred cast, crew, suits and extras. It’s a long day to begin with, made longer by the director on this shoot. He keeps forgetting to tell us when he’s running behind, and we have to keep the food from spoiling in the Florida heat while we wait for him to wrap.
After lunch my team will clean up, and then start on dinner. We’ll be cooking on the beach for fifteen hours at least, longer if filming goes into overtime, which on this shoot is a daily occurrence. Hopefully the director will get the scene he needs today, otherwise we’ll be back here again tomorrow, déjà vu all over again. But we’ll have a whole new menu.
I do enjoy watching the sunrise in the mornings when we start work. I’ve always been a morning person, I think because there’s a peacefulness to that time of day that’s hard to find later on. We’re up and on the job, chopping vegetables and portioning out proteins, when most people still have hours left to sleep, or when some more ambitious club-goers are making their way home from a late night out. But you get used to working the long days, cooking in all types of weather, in different locations and for all types of personalities. That’s where the adventure comes in.
While I work I watch the crew roll through a scene featuring my best friend and roommate, Arlena Madison. She and her handsome co-star have been running back and forth from the sand to the ocean all morning, going from wet to dry as they try to get everything just right. Every time the director yells “cut” wardrobe and makeup strip them down, dry them off and reassemble their clothes, makeup and hair and they start again. I hope after all this work they get a few minutes of film they can use.
We’ve been working on this little island off the coast of Florida for the past few weeks away from our home base of New Jersey, and I’m starting to really miss Joey Baglioni, a childhood friend who might be becoming much more. At least I hope so. He’s a police detective back home, so he’s got a crazy schedule also. Getting together isn’t always easy, but we really have fun when we do. There was always something special about Joey. I could tell even during those awkward grade school years.
To keep my mind off of missing him, I should probably focus on my work. It’s hard enough to find the time to date someone when you have a regular job, much less when you have a job that barely leaves you enough time to get a few hours of sleep between shifts, and takes you off on location for months at a time. And this shoot is proving to be more difficult than most. We’re battling the heat, dealing with a difficult director and accommodating a lead actress who’s severely allergic to seafood. Not to mention one of my favorite chef instructors from culinary school, on the island to cater a set party, ends up accused of kidnapping two young girls, who happen to be my newly hired waitresses on the set.
I just can’t believe he would do something like that, even though there were rumors about him dating students back in school, rumors that I never believed. Whatever happened, I’m determined to figure it out. I just hope I’m not too late.
Murder on a Silver Platter and Murder on the Half Shell, published by Henery Press, February 2016. Murder on a Designer Diet, the third book in the Red Carpet Catering mystery series will be released June 2016.
About the author
Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer.
Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then Shawn has worked as a book store manager, fiction editor, convention organizer, wine consultant and caterer. She has been on the Board of Directors of Malice Domestic since 2003, and is a founding member of The Dames of Detection. Cooking behind the scenes on movie sets perfectly combined two of her great loves, movies and food, and provides the inspiration for her series. Visit Shawn at www.shawnreillysimmons.com
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